London’s Olympic Throw-up

Yet another example of branding efforts going off the rails. Here is the expensively designed logo for the 2012 Olympics in London, followed by the ridiculous commentary justifying its existence:


“This is the vision at the very heart of our brand,” said London 2012 organising committee chairman Seb Coe. [Wwwwhat??] “It will define the venues we build and the Games we hold and act as a reminder of our promise to use the Olympic spirit to inspire everyone and reach out to young people around the world. It is an invitation to take part and be involved.” [Huh??]

The new design, which cost £400,000, has received a mixed response, but Lord Coe was adamant it put across the image and message that he wanted the London Games to deliver to the world. “It’s not a logo, it’s a brand that will take us forward for the next five years,” he told BBC Five Live. “It won’t be to be everybody’s taste immediately but it’s a brand that we genuinely believe can be a hard working brand which builds on pretty much everything we said in Singapore about reaching out and engaging young people, which is where our challenge is over the next five years.” [sorry to break the news to you, but this piece of ugliness is not the brand. It is a brand mark. Although I cannot imagine a healthy brand emerging from it].

Prime Minister Tony Blair said: “We want London 2012 not just to be about elite sporting success. When people see the new brand, we want them to be inspired to make a positive change in their life.” [funny, that was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw this jigsaw jumble of folly!]

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said: “This is a truly innovative brand logo that graphically captures the essence of the London 2012 Olympic Games – namely to inspire young people around the world through sport and the Olympic values. Each edition of the Olympic Games brings its own flavour and touch to what is now well over a century of modern Olympic history; the brand launched today by London 2012 is, I believe, an early indication of the dynamism, modernity and inclusiveness with which London 2012 will leave its Olympic mark.”

Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell said: “This is an iconic brand that sums up what London 2012 is all about – an inclusive, welcoming and diverse Games that involves the whole country. It takes our values to the world beyond our shores, acting both as an invitation and an inspiration. This is not just a marketing logo, but a symbol that will become familiar, instantly recognisable and associated with our Games in so many ways during the next five years.” [yes, indeed, as soon as I spotted it, I saw values…inclusiveness…and the essence of the Games. Really. I did!]

Give me a break. The only thing I can say about this mark is that it is a symbol of the insanity that can prevail when agencies vomit out comic-book ideas and organizers try to justify the hundreds of thousands of dollars they just spent wiping up the mess off the floor by calling it perfume.

Full article here.

(update: it appears that Seth Godin agrees – I think we posted on this simultaneously!)

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The Migraine of Marketing

It’s annoying. Even aggravating. And way too effective.

Perhaps you’ve seen those cheesy “HeadOn” TV commercials. Produced at low cost, with very (shall we say) basic production values, these are still some of the most impactful commercials I’ve seen in years. All they do is repeat, three times, “HeadOn – Apply directly to the forehead” – like a bad record with a skip (note: if you are younger than 30, please consult one of your elders for an explanation of this last reference).

I hate the ads. And, for crying out loud, I also think they’re fabulously effective. I’ll never use the product, which I suspect is nothing more than a homeopathic placebo. But, in no time, the phrase became common parlance in our household. By sheer repetition, and the ghastly fascination of seeing something really ugly on a regular basis (right after Jeopardy, usually), the tagline worked its way into our vocabulary – and, I suspect, into the minds and mouths of many others as well.

Begrudgingly, I am forced to admire the creative audacity that came up with this. It’s awful – brilliantly awful. And I’d never publicly confess that I wish I’d come up with it, of course…!

Impactiviti scale:


Impactiviti provides strategic consulting services to increase brand impact.


Question: Who would name their company something like BGLI-RWUH?

Answer: TIAA-CREF.

OK, maybe that’s a bit harsh. I’m sure there are historical reasons that led to this unfortunate corporate moniker. But please – history aside, can’t we come up with a name that is pronounceable? Why cling to a brand name that is the marketing equivalent of a race car with square tires? With a logo that could have been created in 10 minutes using Powerpoint?

I “Google” when I search. I buy “Kleenex” of many different brands. But under no circumstances would I ever “TIAA-CREF”. It’s a name jumbled together to communicate precisely nothing to the uninitiated.

Based on what TIAA-CREF offers, they’d be better off with a name like Investiva, or something similar. I’d instinctively know what that company is all about.

Then there’s the tagline. With Allstate, I’d be in “good hands” (except that I primarily use Amica – but that’s a subject for another post). I understand being in good hands – that appeals to my self-interest. But do I walk around thinking about “Financial Services for the Greater Good”? Er, no, actually. The Greater Good is for charity. Not for financial services.

And while we’re piling on, it makes no sense for the prominent feature on the website to be a “boast” panel saying “Welcome to our redesigned website (Learn More)”. If the site has been redesigned with me in mind, that should be self-evident – if I need a guided tour to use it, then the design is a failure. And if the design is good, then I don’t need a tour to tell me that the section means what the section says.

Maybe a company with this many assets doesn’t feel a need to project itself optimally. I hope never to afford that luxury!

Impactiviti scale:


Impactiviti provides strategic consulting services to increase brand impact.